Louis Sullivan Elevator Grill, ca. 1894

Value (2012) | $20,000 Retail$30,000 Retail
Watch  

GUEST:
This is a Louis Sullivan grille from the Stock Exchange building in Chicago that was torn down in 1972. And it's an elevator grille.

APPRAISER:
Right-- we have a photograph of one of the floors. This was on every floor. And this was above the door. We have it in this photo a similar one, but not this identical one. But I think they varied from floor to floor. Louis Sullivan was one of America's greatest architects. His big claim to fame was that he was the teacher of Frank Lloyd Wright. But in his own right, he was the sort of father of modern architecture in America. Sometimes he's called the father of the skyscraper. Chicago had that big fire in 1871. So there was a tremendous amount of building going on from then on. And the stock exchange is from the 1890s, early 1890s. And how did you come to own this?

GUEST:
I lived in a small town south of Chicago. And my mother got a call from a friend saying that a salvage company had pieces taken from this building, and several people in our area went with trucks to the salvage company and tried to take pieces. So my mother was one of those people.

APPRAISER:
And she just bought it for the scrap value, for scrap metal?

GUEST:
No, no, no, she knew it was Louis Sullivan.

APPRAISER:
But when it was being sold, did people...

GUEST:
Oh, she bought it for five dollars.

APPRAISER:
This is such a great piece. I think it's indicative of American modernism, although it's very early. They feel that these forms are like wheat seeds from the exchange of wheat on the commodity exchanges. It was made by the Winslow Company in Chicago. And it's fabricated from small pieces. Even though they were on every floor, they're fairly rare, and I think a lot of these could have been melted down for the scrap metal.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
So you said your mother paid five bucks for this, huh? Very wise woman. In a retail setting, I think this piece by itself would probably be in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Yeah.

GUEST:
Really? My word.

APPRAISER:
It's a great, great piece of American architectural history.

GUEST:
Oh, this is amazing. Thank you so much.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Lillian Nassau LLC
New York, New York
Appraised value (2012)
$20,000 Retail$30,000 Retail
Event
Rapid City, SD (July 14, 2012)
Period
19th Century
Material
Metal

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.